Obama Camp Blasts Romney Welfare-Reform Attack

The Obama campaign is fighting back hard on the Romney campaign’s newest line of attack, namely that Barack Obama is has drastically changed the work-requirement laws instituted as part of welfare reforms. NPR reports:

In a conference call to further respond to the Romney campaign’s charges, the Obama campaign had John Podesta, Clinton’s White House chief of staff, join Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter and James Kvaal, the campaign’s policy director.

Podesta called the Romney ad “completely false”, and he and Cutter explained that to obtain a waiver, a state would within a year need to increase by 20 percent their placements of recipients into work.

They stressed that the request Romney and other Republican governors signed in 2005 called for a much more expansive waiver than anything the Obama administration would allow, including lifting the federal law’s time limits on how long welfare recipients could receive benefits.

Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who worked extensively on the original welfare-reform bill, is dismissive of the Obama campaign’s stance, saying that with the economy improving, it’s likely more people will start exiting the caseloads. “The number of exits off the caseload was higher before reform than after reform, and because it’s a function of the size of the caseload and in fact, one of the ways that reform was blocked in the pre-’96 period was that states ran around and said they were reducing dependency because they had all these exits when in fact the caseload in that period went up by 48 percent,” Rector says.

Nor does he see the 2005 letter, in which Romney joined other governors in requesting waivers related to the welfare-reform requirements, as proof that Romney is hypocritical on the matter.

“What is being discussed there in that letter is a concept called superwaivers,” Rector says. “The essence of superwaivers was to allow states to apply the TANF work requirements to housing and food stamps. There’s nothing whatsoever in that letter that is saying is what we’re looking for here is to soften the TANF work requirements. The letter doesn’t say anything like that.”

Kathleen Sebelius, Rector remarks, has “effectively abolished the entire work requirements, which are in section 407. She basically is saying anything that’s in Section 407, which is the core of the bill, is no longer binding on the states, and we will devise our own standards that will supersede whatever is in the law.”

“And then she’s saying after having essentially granted to herself unlimited authority to do anything with the law she wants to,” he continues, “she’s saying, ‘oh, but it’s going to be very pro-work,’ and she tossed out this notion of these exit measures. It’s the oldest sham in the left-wing playbook. And in fact the Left has used that for decades to try to claim they were in favor of reducing dependants when in fact it’s correlated to increasing dependents.”

Katrina Trinko — Katrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...

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